HOUSTON - Jon DiSalvatore scored a controversial winning goal with 1:13 left in the game as the Houston Aeros defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-3 in Game 7 of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference finals Tuesday night.
Houston advances to the Calder Cup, winning the series 4-3.
In a scrum in front of the net, DiSalvatore and a pack of Aeros continued to jab at the puck under Hamilton goalie Drew MacIntyre's pad until it finally went across the goal line.
Hamilton had several chances in the final minute, including a scrum in front of the Houston net with a couple jabs at the puck by Aaron Palushaj. Ryan White took another shot and a scrum ensued in front of the net with a number of Bulldogs jabbing at the puck, but again, Hackett didn't let it through.
Houston took a 3-2 lead early in the second with a Casey Wellman goal. Jean-Michel Daoust sent a pass to Wellman on the right circle, and Wellman nailed a slapshot past MacIntyre.
The Bulldogs charged right back with an Aaron Palushaj power-play goal at 9:57 in the second. Nigel Dawes sent a pass from the left circle to Dustin Boyd stationed left of the crease. Boyd sent it across the crease to Palushaj, who beat Aeros goalie Matt Hackett.
The game remained tied until DiSalvatore's goal.
Matt Hackett made 24 saves for Houston, while MacIntyre turned away 30 shots for the Bulldogs.
Houston got off to a quick start, scoring twice nine seconds apart to take a 2-0 lead at 7:12 in the first.
Patrick O’Sullivan took the puck behind the net and found Chad Rau in the crease for the first goal, and off the ensuing faceoff, Wellman stole it from Brandon Nash, too it inside the blue line and hit a slapshot the deflected off of Nash’s stick and in top shelf.
The Bulldogs quickly recovered with Dustin Boyd taking it inside the blue line and firing a shot over Hackett’s shoulder from above the circles at 9:13 in the first to make it 2-1.
After Houston’s Carson McMillan was whistled for hooking at 13:03 in the first, Hamilton took just 18 seconds with the man advantage before Mathieu Carle took a pass from Dawes in the right circle and beat Hackett top shelf.